Saturday, July 9, 2016

One step closer to women in charge of the world

My July 3rd post was about the likelihood that, by January, women would rule the world -- assuming that Hillary Clinton becomes our president, that a woman is the next Prime Minister of Great Britain, and that a woman becomes the next UN Secretary General.  They would join Angela Merkle as the most powerful figure in the European Union.

The second of those moved a big step closer to reality on Thursday.   David Cameron's replacement as U.K. Prime Minister will definitely be a woman.   The choice -- to be voted on in September -- has been narrowed to two.   Both are women.

The winner will join the women who are currently heads of state in:   Germany, Norway, Poland, Croatia, South Korea, Taiwan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile and other nations.   In addition, Janet Yellen, at the U.S. Federal Reserve, and Christine Lagarde at the IMF, are the two top financial leaders in the world.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Dallas -- once again

While I don't condone the violence that took the lives of five police officers last night in Dallas, it is not hard for me to understand the cumulative rage and hopelessness that has built up in young black men in this country.    From what we know thus far, the shootings in Baton Rouge and in a St. Paul, MN suburb, just days before, were prime examples of the racism that they face in some -- let me emphasize some -- police officers.

At the same time, turning against the police is not the answer.   Some places (New York City and the state of Nevada are two I know about) have instituted innovative programs, not just to get rid of overt, explicit racism in police forces, but to train them to recognize and combat within themselves the unconscious, implicit racism that pervades our whole society.   The emphasis is building trust and relationship with the community.

By all accounts, prior to the moment the sniper opened fire, the Black Lives Matter sponsored Dallas rally was entirely peaceful.   Further, there are reports of friendly cooperation between the protesters and police officers, For this to be the context in which  a few  [police now believe it was a lone sniper] retaliated against white police officers is doubly discouraging and sad.   Some say that the Dallas Police Department and its Chief -- a black man -- are better than most in having good relationships with the community.

We must not allow this to escalate into "civil war" that one New York tabloid newspaper blared in its headlines early this morning.   We must not blame Black Lives Matter, who organized a peaceful rally.  The shooters were not part of that movement.   Nor must we make a wholesale indictment of police.

We must not blame each other.   This is a problem that we all own, and we must solve it together.   Progress is being made.    It is too little, so far.   Let's hope it is not too late.


PS:   My headline, "Dallas -- once again," is not an indictment of the city.   It's the location of a national tragedy that those of us, of a certain age, remember from that fateful day of November 23, 1963  when our young Camelot president was shot near this same spot by a gunman high up in a building.

FBI director testifies at congressional email hearing

I spent 4+ hours watching the CSPAN coverage of the congressional hearing with FBI director James Comey explaining his decision about Clinton's email.   He was resolute in defending his decision, based on lack of evidence of willful intent or massive amounts of classified information being mishandled, or obstruction of justice.    So she's free of any legal problem.   He said, quite clearly, that he did not think she broke the law.

But Comey gave the Republicans plenty of material to use politically, saying that she was extremely careless, that she had potentially jeopardized national security (although there is no evidence that actually happened), and that several things she has said publicly about it are not true.

So, yes, the political theater will continue.   The Democrats can point to "she did not break the law" and the Republicans will say "she lied" and "was extremely careless with national security data."  It's going to hurt.   But Donald Trump will probably come to the rescue and do something to grab the news cycle and overshadow even this.


Democrats frustrated and angry with Sanders

[Background and quotes for this are based on Politico reporting.]

Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed by some members of the House Democratic Caucus when he met with them Wednesday.  It came after he said this"The goal isn't to win elections, the goal is to transform America."

As the Politico article observed:  that's a line that "plays better on the campaign trail than in front of a roomful of elected officials."   I understand both sides of this growing controversy, I think.   But it's getting tense, and elected officials are naturally concerned about winning the election.   At this point, they don't see Sanders as helping.   He hasn't endorsed Clinton and won't say when he will, even though he says he will "do everything I can to help defeat Donald Trump."

But here's his position.   He really didn't enter this election expecting to win the presidency.  He had a message and wanted to start a political revolution to change the country and to change the Democratic party.   He wanted to excite the electorate, mobilize idealistic young people to get involved, keep people thinking about reforming our economic system that results in such inequality;  to reform Wall Street regulations, push for universal health care, insist on campaign finance reform and a free college education.

He is continuing to hold out, because he's still hoping to make the party platform more progressive, especially on commitment to a $15 minimum wage and opposing TPP.   The platform is by far the most progressive we've ever had -- at least since FDR.   And Sanders had a lot to do with making that happen, since they gave him 1/3 of the delegates on the Platform Committee.   But he wants more, like ending the superdelegate system for future elections.

Those who are frustrated with him feel, as one senior member said of the meeting:  "It was frustrating because he's squandering the movement he built with a self-obsession that was totally on display."   The concern is that, by not officially ending his campaign and endorsing Clinton so as to help unite the party, especially by encouraging his supporters to come aboard, he is hurting the chances to win in November.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a friend of Sanders, explained:  What he said very clearly is we’ve got to beat Trump and the way he believes we’re going to do it is by having a commitment to an agenda that excites people, including the younger people. And he’s working on that."

Sanders himself added this as he left the meeting:  "We got to get people involved in the political process, we got to get a large voter turnout, and if we have a larger voter turnout, Democrats will regain control of the Senate and I believe they’re gonna take the House back.” 

So that's it.   The glass is half full, or it's half empty.   It's the old argument about idealism vs. pragmatism.   He's pretty clear that he's going to support Clinton.   But he's going to do it his way and keep working to get as much of his agenda accomplished as he can.   I honestly don't think he believes he's hurting her chances by waiting.   He thinks the best way he can help is by pushing Clinton and the party platform to be more appealing to more people.

That's what he has already done.   When is the time to join hands and keep pushing together?   Clinton's latest campaign motto is:  "We're Stronger Together."


PS:   Since I wrote this, Sanders has acknowledged that he and Clinton have scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday, and he didn't discourage the implication that this will be about endorsing her and when to do it.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Case closed -- except Republicans have stuck a foot in the door. May it slam hard on their tender toes.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released this statement:
“Late this afternoon, I met with FBI Director James Comey and career prosecutors and agents who conducted the investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State.  I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation.” 
Case closed.

What a difference a "no" makes -- when you're nothing but a partisan politician

Being a professional prosecutor -- and especially being the head of the FBI -- means that you operate on principles and law, on facts and evidence.    You are not free to decide to prosecute or not based on whether you are on the same side politically.

But that doesn't seem to be true for the current crop of Republicans running investigative committees in congress.   Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the committee that has pretty broad jurisdiction over any federal employee or elected official that they want to investigate.

The temptation is just too great, I suppose, to misuse committee hearings for political grandstanding and witch-hunting.    It's the committee that the odious Darrel Issa used to head.   Here's what Rep. Chaffetz said just last month about FBI Director James Comey vis a vis the case of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

In an interview,  June 6, 2016, Chaffetz had nothing but praise for Comey, calling him the most competent, reliable person to lead the probe.   "I do think that in all of government, he is a man of integrity and honesty. . . .  His finger is on the pulse of this. . . . Nothing happens without him, and I think he is going to be the definitive person to make a determination or a recommendation.”

In response to a question on that show, Chaffetz even said that he thought Republicans would "probably" accept a recommendation by Comey not to indict Clinton, "Because we do believe in James Comey.”

That was before Comey announced on July 5, 2016 that he is not recommending any charges.   Chaffetz called this "surprising and confusing."   He said, "The fact pattern presented by Director Comey makes clear Secretary Clinton violated the law. Individuals who intentionally skirt the law must be held accountable.”   And he said he's ready to conduct a new investigation into the investigation.  "Congress and the American people have a right to understand the depth and breadth of the FBI’s investigation."

Yes, and Comey spelled that out very clearly in his Tuesday press conference.   If Chaffetz really doesn't get it, all he needs to do is read this that Comey said in his report:
"All the cases [that were] prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information, or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct, or indications of disloyalty to the United States, or efforts to obstruct justice.

"We do not see those things here. . . .  We are expressing to [the Department of] Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case. . . .  our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,"

Oh, my!   Here we go again.   Either Chaffetz must have hit himself on the head with his big gavel, or he didn't read Comey's statement.   Or he's just stupid.   Or -- could it be -- that Republicans just can't stand to let any decision favorable to Hillary Clinton go unchallenged?   Because . . . duh . . . Clinton.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

FBI Director: "extremely careless" but "no charges are appropriate" in Clinton's email investigation

FBI Director James Comey yesterday held a press conference to present his report on the investigation of the Clinton email system from her time as Secretary of State.

Comey gave a scathing rebuke -- saying that Clinton and her colleagues were "extremely careless" in handling sensitive information and that, even where emails were not marked classified, someone in her position should have known she was writing about sensitive material.

Nevertheless,  despite conservatives' hopes and predictions that she would wind up in jail,  Comey said that "We cannot find a case that would support bringing a criminal charge based on these facts."   He continued, saying this about other cases of mishandling of classified information that did merit prosecution:
"All the cases [that were] prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information, or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct, or indications of disloyalty to the United States, or efforts to obstruct justice.

"We do not see those things here. . . .  We are expressing to [the Department of] Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case. . . .  our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,"

This seems to be the end of any legal problems for Clinton in the so-called "email scandal."   That doesn't mean the political problems will end.   Republicans, and especially the Trump campaign, were quick to claim that the outcome "was rigged" and to claim that Clinton had endangered the security of our country and shouldn't be trusted to be president.

In all honesty, and Clinton herself now agrees, she should not have used the private server.   But did she endanger the country?   Perhaps we were lucky, but there is zero evidence that any harm was done.  The only evidence that she has ever risked our security was this private email server, and she certainly will not do the same thing as president.

Republicans, with their eight, multi-million-dollar investigations, have squeezed every ounce of juice they can out of the Benghazi tragedy;  and now Clinton is finally out from under the threat of "an FBI criminal investigation."   Let's move on with the campaign. 

Anyone who wants to claim that Hillary Clinton is not trustworthy should just consider the alternative being offered by the Republican Party.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The good works of Muslims

Enough of the "Islamic terrorists" meme our news media and conservative politicians scream at us.    Here in the last days of this year's Ramadan, it's good to ponder the good news to help counter that negative stereotype.  Of course, terrorism is real and a terrible threat.   They may claim their allegiance to an "Islamic State."   But they do not represent Islam as understood and practiced by over 1 billion, peaceful Muslim people.   Here's an example.

The police in the city of Minden, Germany reported that a 25 year old refugee from Syria, now living in their city, brought home a piece of furniture given to him by a local charity.   When he got it home, he discovered a hidden panel under one of the shelves which contained cash in the amount of 50,000 euros (about $55,000).   It also held bankbooks with information about accounts holding twice that amount.

The man, identified only as Muhannad M., returned the money to immigration officials, even though it could have paid for him to bring his two brothers to join him in Germany.  "I am Muslim," he explained.   "I am not allowed to keep this money.   My religion forbids it.   Allah would never allow me to finance my owns interests with someone else's wealth."

This dramatic story went viral.   But I know of quiet daily acts of kindness and generosity done by Muslims every day.


Monday, July 4, 2016

A moment to remember what this nation stands for

Last night, I had a choice seat to watch a beautiful display of fireworks, thanks to a Muslim friend who took me there, and thanks to a Hispanic family who generously shared the back of their pickup truck so this old man with a bad back could sit down.

My northern European ancestors were immigrants to this country in the 18th and 19th centuries.    My Muslim friend who took me to see the fireworks and the new Hispanic friends who shared their truck are 21st century immigrants.   Yet they were helping me.

For much of our nation's history, we welcomed immigrants.   To hear some politicians and their followers, you would think that is no longer true.    But the Statue of Liberty still stands in New York Harbor as a beacon of hope, proclaiming the promise of Emma Lazarus's poem that we once so proudly believed:

                         Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


The progressive case for Tim Kaine as Clinton's VP

photo by Patrick McDermott, Getty Images.

Former MSNBC host and candidate for congress herself, Krystal Ball wrote an article to debunk the notion that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) would be a "boring," "safe," and "centrist" pick for Hillary Clinton's vice president running mate.  [see my comments on June 27th post about VP short list]   Krystal Ball is from Virginia, and she says that the complaint about this former governor has always been that he's "too liberal."    So she presents a few things you should know about why, though a progressive Sanders fan herself, she loves Tim Kaine.
*   *   * 

"Kaine is the son of a welder who graduated from a Jesuit high school, flew through University of Missouri and then landed at Harvard Law. While his classmates were hanging out in Cambridge fielding offers from big firms, Kaine took a year off to do mission work in Honduras where he worked with young boys growing up in brutal poverty. The year abroad left him fluent in Spanish and with a deep commitment to using his Harvard law degree for the public good. After law school he made good on his commitment to service and rather than cashing in on his degree, spent much of his legal career fighting against housing discrimination. . . .

"[Nor did he abandon] all his lofty principles in a quest for political power in a conservative Southern state! If that’s your concern, perhaps you should just ask the NRA how they feel about Tim Kaine. Here’s how his elections in Virginia typically go: the NRA gives him an  F rating, fear mongers about how he’s going to take everyone’s guns, spends massively against him, and then Tim goes on to win anyway.

"Keep in mind, the NRA is literally headquartered in Virginia. If they are powerful anywhere they are powerful in the Old Dominion but that didn’t stop Kaine from signing an executive order following the Virginia Tech massacre to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It also didn’t stop him from pushing additional gun control measures as governor like eliminating the gun show loophole, and it hasn’t stopped him as Senator from continuing to lead the charge for sensible rules like increased background checks. . . .  [P]erhaps the definition of political courage for a Southern Dem is willingness to buck the gun lobby. Tim Kaine has been unflinching. . . .

"[Nor was his liberal stance on guns just to balance a right of center stance on everything else.   Rather, as governor of Virginia]  ". . . . Kaine raised taxes, spearheaded efforts for universal pre-K, made Virginia the first Southern state to ban smoking in public places, and consistently opposed the death penalty. . . . [He] vetoed eight different bills that would have expanded capital punishment. . . . 

"Speaking of Catholic values, shouldn’t pro-choice progressives be terrified of Tim Kaine on the ticket? After all, he has said he is personally opposed to abortion. . . .  [But] Kaine has consistently supported Roe v Wade. In the Senate, he actually enjoys a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. . . .  He has been quite clear that while he may have his own personal objections to abortion, he has no interest in policing the lives of others. . . .

"But, but, but Kaine is so boring! Surely he won’t bring the energy the ticket needs to win, right? If you think so, here’s something to consider: Tim Kaine has won every single election he’s ever run in. He’s won everything from Mayor of the majority African-American city of Richmond, to governor of a conservative Southern state. In fact, Kaine was a big part of turning Virginia into the state we see today which went twice for Obama and currently has a Democrat in every single statewide office. . . .  Obviously, he’s from an important swing state but the way Kaine won in Virginia is important too. He precisely targeted and outperformed in the kind of suburban and exurban counties where Republican leaning voters may be feeling the most uncomfortable with the charlatan who has won the Republican presidential nomination. 

" . . . .  I’m not saying the guy is perfect. But having watched a long time and gotten to see the man up close, I can tell you he is courageous, principled, and value driven." 

[Krystal Ball concludes this personal account of Sen. Kaine by saying that she drove 12 hours to be able to cast her vote at home for Bernie Sanders -- and that she would be delighted to see Tim Kaine on the Democratic ticket.]  "He won over skeptical Virginians when it was supposedly impossible. I’d love to see what he can do to help Secretary Clinton win over America."
*   *   *
OK.   I'm convinced he'd be a great vice president.  And, for anyone who looks carefully at the facts, his liberal values and credentials are convincing.   I'm worried about what is being referred to -- derisively now -- as the "optics."    How will "another white man" from a conservative Southern state look to the short-attention-span-challenged average voter?   Maybe the Clinton team thinks her greatest deficit is with the white, less educated working class men -- and maybe Kaine can bring them in.

Or maybe Kaine is the one she wants at her side in the White House as she has to make tough decisions.   That's the most important thing.